Engineers at Natural Resources Wales (NRW) are using an innovative solution to keep a Neath river flowing freely and clear of blockages – by enlisting the help of a robot.
The remote-controlled digger, called a ‘robo-dozer’ is being used to remove over 400 tonnes of gravel which has built up in a culvert under the A465 in Cwmgwrach.
It would be difficult and dangerous to remove by hand, but was severely restricting the flow of the river, and if left unattended could cause water to back up and flood nearby properties.
Before work started, the team temporarily diverted the flow of the river to allow the robo-dozer to access the culvert. Fisheries specialists also carried out electrofishing, allowing fish to be temporarily moved to a safe place during the works.
Jamie Neal, Technical Specialist at Natural Resources Wales said:
“It’s a common dilemma we have to cope with, but in highly developed, urban areas, space is often very limited - but by their nature, it’s these areas where flooding can affect the most people.
“Before we started to remove the gravel, our computer modelling showed us that the river bed under the culvert was over half a metre higher than it should, so a bit of a bottleneck in terms of flooding.
“But after finding the perfect solution, we can now effectively keep water channels such as the Nant Gwrach running, and therefore reduce the risk of flooding to nearby homes and businesses.”